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Robbie Fulks ♥s the Velvet Underground

The vision or version of the Velvet Underground's music that Robbie Fulks and the boys played at the Hideout on January 16 may not have been a complete one--you couldn't do that with such a dimensional band--but it was nonetheless a very personal one: each member of the band had contributed a few personal favorites to the setlist.  It was an irreverent, ramshackle show that walked us around that deformed hydra that is the Velvets’ music, not afraid to tweak its whiskers.    

We tip-toed past the gentle (“Sunday Morning”, “Stephanie Says”), lilted to the pop (“There She Goes Again”, “Who Loves The Sun”, “She’s My Best Friend”), and stomped by the ferocious (deep cut “Guess I’m Falling in Love”, a galloping "What Goes On", the electric charge of "I'm Waiting For The Man").

And they didn't leave off the literary: they actually did Reed’s deadpan-dry, black-comedy short story classic “The Gift”!  I amused (and somewhat scandalized) my friend Beth, who knows not of the Velvets, by reciting key lines of the story in her ear alongside Fulks, who donned spectacles and sat at a lectern (though he didn't try to put on Cale's Welsh accent, despite calls from the audience).  "Waldo Jeffers had reached his limit..." 

We gaped at Grand Canyon-like majesty (“All Tomorrow’s Parties”).  We went looking for redemption in the lovely "Jesus", and found it in the life-affirming “I Found a Reason”.  Lastly we lingered on the whimsical (“I’m Sticking With You” and that little coda “After Hours”, which I've always found oddly moving). 

We’re not gonna play some of your favorites, Robbie told us straightaway, not out of some hipster thing of ‘we’re not gonna play the ones you came to hear,’ but just because there are too many great ones.  And so there was no “Femme Fatale” or “Pale Blue Eyes” or “Sweet Jane” or “Rock & Roll.”  

Perhaps they gave short shrift only to the VU's ice-pick-to-the-skull moments, when sound scorched the world and cracked it open.  They did not quite produce a note piercing enough to split our minds open, though there was a groovy Robbie original (a throwaway ditty with a refrain like, "hey, hey, how'd they get that sound? Ooh, the Velvet Underground") that mashed into a lurching "Sister Ray" and back.  Young couples out for a night out with their arms around one another suddenly found themselves bobbing their heads and grooving to lyrics like “She’s busy suckin’ on my ding-dong/I’m searching for my mainline/I said I couldn’t hit it sideways/Couldn’t hit it sideways….”. 

It was a memorable night of homage to the band and the records from which all "alternative" rock and roll flows.


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